Dig Comics - Movie Review

Dig Comics logo
I finally got a copy of the documentary, Dig Comics, and thought I'd post a few thoughts. First though, a little background on the movie...

According to the Dig Comics website, (where you can view a trailer) the film is written, hosted and directed by Miguel Cima, a graduate of the NYU film school. Several other film pros were involved in the making of the movie, including the award-winning cartoonist, Scott Shaw!. The movie was also named "Best Documentary" at the 2009 Comic-Con in San Diego and is seeking funding in order to produce a full-length version.

Miguel Cima
Dig Comics tries to answer the question: Why don't more Americans read comic books?  The film explores that topic in a couple of ways. First, Cima, who's as passionate a comic book fan as you'll ever see, hits the street in search of answers. Several minutes are devoted to Cima interviewing ordinary folks of all ages at a shopping mall. I thought this segment was interesting because the responses that Cima got when he asked "Do you read comics?" are probably typical of most Americans. Most of the reasons why they didn't revolved around lack of access to the books and not realizing the variety of work being produced.
In addition to the energy and enthusiasm that Cima brings to the movie, it has other things going for it as well. For one, it presents a concise but thorough history of the rise and decline of the American comic book industry. Many comic fans might already know some of the key historical points the film addresses, such as the role that the Wertham commission played in the comics backlash of the 1950's. However, kids and older folks who are only casually familiar with comics will be surprised by some of the facts that Cima and crew drop on them.  

Cima also includes archival images and footage illustrating how popular comics were in the years following World War II. Icons like Elvis and Humphrey Bogart are shown reading comic books, which showed how mainstream the medium was before its decline in the '50s. I thought this was cool because you can contrast it with today's stars. When was the last time you saw a photo of a major celebrity, let's say, lounging on the beach, while reading a comic book?

Definitely one of the highlights of the movie was an interview with film, TV and comic book writer, Jeph Loeb (Smallville, Heroes). Getting someone of Loeb's stature to appear in the film made me realize that the guys behind the movie were pros. If Cima and company get the cash for a big-budget version, I hope Loeb can play an even larger role. In fact, with all due respect to Mr. Cima, Loeb would make a great narrator as well.

As for the movie's weaknesses- this might've been due to time constraints, but Cima neglects to mention the ever increasing price of comics, which has made it nearly impossible for kids to afford more than a couple of books per month. Also, no mention is given to the huge variety of entertainment options that are available today that weren't around during the comic Golden Age. I think those are two major issues that affect comic readership. No matter how convincing a case Cima presents in favor of comics for all ages and tastes, if the price is prohibitive, comics will remain a niche product.

Another minor complaint is the inclusion of several F-bombs, which seemed totally out of place in a film like this. One minute, Cima expressed his hope that pre-teen kids will read comics again, and the next minute he pleaded with the viewers to buy some f-ing comics. Hopefully, in the full length version they'll have a little better judgement in the editing room. The F-bombs could've been easily bleeped without losing any of the emphasis.

As I write this, I honestly don't know when the producers will make the film availabe for purchase, so you may have to wait a bit to see it.  However, when it is available- for long-time fans, Dig Comics will reinforce their belief in the merits of the medium. I know it had that affect on me. For baby boomers who used to read them, it might stir memories of flipping through spinner racks in the local 7-11 and motivate them to search out their local comic shop. The bottom line is, whether you're a hard core fan, mildly interested, or never picked up a comic book, I think you'll find Dig Comics thought-provoking.

I'd like to thank Corey Blake, one of the producers of Dig Comics, for providing a review copy of the film.